Sunday Blessings 221

(1) An awesome weekend with my sis

(2) Time with momma. It’s been way too long since weve seen her.

(3) Stopping and seeing EG at the farm.

(4) EG sending goodies home with us.

(5) Jer Bears Sno Cones

(6) Swimming at Spring Lake Park

(7) Texting with my faves

(8) Friends who hold each other in our grief.

(9) Adopting Luna the kitty

(10) Rental Car Agencies!!

(11) KD and RD cat sitting

(12) Seeing all my friends and grieving together.

(13) The hugs of so many friends! (You know who you are!)

(14) Stopping at sissys

(15) Summer Nights on Main

(16) Grace!!

(17) Goodies left at my house.

(18) David’s BBQ sunflower seeds

(19) A beautiful PLN!!

(20) Playing with Luna

(21) Fresh veggie stir fry. So yummy!!

Done with Grief

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “done.” We would love to have you join us.

This week has been filled with grief once again. I’m tired, spent, done. Since last October, I’ve lost four colleagues/friends under the age of 40. These lives taken from us way too early. I know that death is a part of life, but in these days of grief and emotional exhaustion, I’m so done with grief and dying.

But I’m not done with loving. I’m not done with friendships. I’m not done with a community who cry together. It makes death, dying and grief a little easier. It reminds me of the promise of the resurrection. In the words of one of my favorite quotes by Clarence W Hall, “Easter says you can put death in the grave but it won’t stay there.” In other words, resurrection always comes.

God calls us to trust in God’s promises; to let our lights shine before others that they may see our good works and glorify our father in Heaven. Im not going to take another day for granted. But I’m so tired of death! Im tired of burying my friends. I’m ready for life to continue to emerge in the midst of death.

Sunday Blessings 220 (#elcayg2018 Edition)

(1) Getting to Houston safely!

(2) Awesome Lyft drivers who have karaoke in their car

(3) Getting to hug and see so many of my dear friends!!

(4) A long conversation catching up with GV

(5) IPadel Houston

(6) Kolaches!!!

(7) JL and his crew from Texas gifting us with a Texas themed welcome basket

(8) The lady at IPadel who paid for court time but was giving up her time to teach us all how to play. What a giving heart she has!

(9) Amazing speakers that challenged us and cause me to work towards more inclusion for all God’s beloved in the church.

(10) A Houston Astros game. So much fun!!!

(11) Sunday dinner with CS, TM, EO, and AA.

(12) Awesome co adult leaders! Thanks PNM and JJ!

(13) CM bringing me my backpack when I left it at the synod day hotel!

(14) Our youth helping serve communion and blessing the WND participants! Such a cool moment!

(15) Starbucks Cool Lime Refreshers!

(16) 4th of July with EL and LL and friends! So much fun!

(17) Texting with my favorites!

(18) Support from so many friends!

(19) Water and First Aide stations!!

(20) Air conditioning

Resting in the Promises of the Resurrection

One of the joys of life is the many friends that God introduces to us along the journey of life. But with the joy also comes the sorrow. Life ebbs and flows with both life and death. Since last Fall, I know of at least four young leaders who are now resting in the promises of the resurrection. These four young leaders were taken from us way too soon and it is so difficult to comprehend. My heart is breaking and I once again feel like I am walking through the darkness of Lent.

Yesterday I learned of the death of another youth ministry colleague/friend who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Rachel was on vacation with her family when she suffered a pulmonary embolism. I met Rachel through the youth ministry world. In fact, in January, while at the ELCA Extravaganza, Rachel stopped me while we were both descending a set of stairs. She introduced herself and shared how she thought we should be friends since we have a lot of the same friends in common. I shared how much I missed my Fargo-Moorhead friends and asked her to watch over them for me. She smiled with that beautiful smile of hers and promised that she would do just that.

Rachel was a radiant light who exuded God’s love and joy in the world. She gathered with the youth from her church and 31000 of our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ at the youth gathering last week in Houston. In that stadium, we all created a wave of hope. Today I find the image of the lights lighting up that stadium coming to mind as I remember Rachel as she rests in the promises of the resurrection.

With Rachel’s death, grief once again sets in. “Grief, I’ve learned is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hallow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” (Jamie Anderson)

And with love that has no place to go, I am thankful for a community that is standing in that same place with me and all those who know and love Rachel. Another youth ministry friend (Tom Schwolert) captured this well when he wrote, “This hurts deeply because we all know her even if we’ve never met her. We know her passion for sharing the love of Jesus with young people. May we be grateful for every life Rachel touched and that she is in the loving arms of Jesus.” Together, as a body of Christ, we are all linked as beautiful beloved children of God.

Rachel now rests in the promises of the resurrection along with Maggie, Justin, and Ben. These faithful servants know that for them and all of us Jesus truly changes everything. Yet it is hard to trust in these promises when we are having to say good bye to our friends too early in life. It is a part of life that I would much rather not have to experience. But the reality is that grief comes because we loved these friends and family members. This love is grounded in God’s love for the world, but it is also a love that God calls us to share with one another.

And in the midst of my grief, I find myself clinging to the book of Romans. “If we live, we live to the Lord. If we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lords.” Or in the words of Clarence W. Hall, “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.”

For Rachel, Ben, Maggie, and Justin, life; eternal life found in Christ, not death has the final word! Thanks be to God!

Linking up with Kelly and the Ra Ra linkup, Mary and Tell His Story, Holley and Coffee for your Heart, and Kristin and Porch Stories.

  

 

Vacationing

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “vacation.” We would love to have you join us.

Colorado for continuing ed classes, Houston Texas for the youth gathering. The last part of my June has been busy. I love being in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. I love being with my youth and getting to see so many of my friends from seminary, prior calls, etc. Yet my friends, I’m tired. I’m still recovering from the Gathering. Seriously, I took a 6 hour nap on Monday!

In a few weeks, my sister and I along with our aunt and uncle will head out for our vacation. NYC, here we come! NYC has been on my bucket list for forever. I’m excited to explore the city. I’m super stoked to see Wicked on Broadway. We also plan on spending some time at the 9-11 memorial.

My sister and I started the sisters vacation about four years ago. We’ve been to Nashville, Mount Rushmore and the Badlands of South Dakota, and Chicago. We have so much fun and I’m sure NYC will be the same.

This summer has been so full of travel for me. I may need a vacation from my vacation after all the trips have been finished! And after all this travel talk, I think I might need to go take another nap!

Hope and Our Church

Eleven year old Rebekah Bruesehoff stood in front of 30,837 youth, adult leaders, volunteers and shared her story of transitioning to female. Rebekah was born a male. She is an advocate protesting for equal rights for all. This 11 year stood with such confidence; more confidence than many adults I know and proclaimed the promises found in the gospel: “Love one another.” Rebekah created a wave of hope as we all texted a friend the words “May God hold you in the grip of grace.” 30000 plus cell phone lights lit up and illuminated NRG stadium.

Rebekah, her mom Jamie, Tuhina, Nadia, and so many of the speakers were attacked because of their messages. Yet their messages are messages this church desperately needs and needed to hear. These messages proclaim the gospel as they speak the truth in love and call us to be a better church.

Approximately 31,000 youth, adults, etc heard that they were loved; that they are welcomed in this church. Approximately 31,000 individuals served in various ways throughout the city; being the hands and feet of Jesus. And these same individuals worshipped together as we lifted our voices to the Lord. It is these moments and so many more that continually give me hope for our church.

Yet the world is still full of people who believe that we are a church that doesn’t proclaim the gospel. They need to take a closer look because the truth is we are a church that is working hard to embody the words “all are welcome here!” We are a church that I am willing to stand up for until the day I did. In the words of Martin Luther, “Here we stand. I can do no other.”

The ELCA Youth Gathering is a powerful witness to what it means to live as the body of Christ. It is a place where truly all are welcome. It is a place where two or three or 30000 are gathered in Christ’s name. It is a place that teaches us to truly listen to those who are different than us. It is a place where the Holy Spirit is completely evident!

Rebekah reminded us of this incredible witness and hope as she proclaimed, “We don’t have to wait until we are all grown up to make an impact. We can be hope for the church and for all people. They need us.” She is right. This church is hope!

So to Molly Beck Dean, the whole gathering team, and all others, thank you! Thank You for creating an incredible event. Thank You for choosing speakers that cause us to ponder and maybe even challenge our own views. Thank You for creating hope for the future. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

(And to those who constantly feel the need to attack our church, look again! This church/my church and especially our youth are a gift in this broken messed up world. Honestly, you’ve got nothing on us!)

Sunday Blessings 218 and 219 (LAR 2018 Edition)

(1) Baby holding with Baby A

(2) Chili lights parties

(3) Mini golfing with Tim and the boys

(4) LAR fun

(5) Hanging with N and N

(6) Lots of meals with AT and SR

(7) The Incredibles 2 movie

(8) Helping SB with his PPT presentation

(9) Yummy margaritas

(10) Learning lots

(11) LAR talent show.

(12) Trail Ridge Road with SR and AT

(13) Stopping to have lunch with KL on my way home.

(14) KD and R and Z picking me up at the car rental place and giving me a ride home.

(15) Fun mail..a new LLR Irma and my new Rachel Kurtz cd.

(16) ST telling me that my poetry keeps getting better and better.

(17) Annie F Downs That Sounds Fun podcast

(18) A beautiful much needed PLN

(19) Uploading all my LAR photos.

(20) Veggies

(21) Gods grace and friends/colleagues who extend that grace.

My Prayer is that It’s Enough!

Earlier this week, my day was interrupted with the news of Kate Spade. Then this morning, I woke up to the death of Anthony Bourdain. Both deaths attributed to suicide. Yet the truth is they died because of the mental illness they struggled with. Their stories are not the only stories like this. The suicide rates in this country are extremely high yet that’s only part of the story.

I am the daughter of a woman who lives daily with a mental illness. Our mom had a nervous breakdown after my sister was born. She lives each day with a mental illness. In fact, growing up, I don’t remember a time when mom didn’t end up in the hospital.

Also while in college, one of my dear friends took his life because of the demons in his head. I remember how upset our campus pastor was as she felt we would have seen the signs as he had just transferred to another school.

I know that we all want these beautiful beloved children of God to live happy lives. But the reality is that mental illness has its own path. It can be regulated some with medicine but that’s not the whole picture either. Often the medicine isn’t enough. Or the demons have more power. Or the patient simply stops taking the medication. I remember several times when mom would be at her highest highs and stop taking her medications because she thought she didn’t need them anymore. It’s like the heart knows one thing, but the head says another.

In the midst of mental illness, it can be hard to even see that they need help. Those struggling with mental illness need to seek help from the outside which truly cannot come from the inside. The best thing we can do is love the mentally ill for who God created them to be. If my mom has taught me anything in life, it’s that….love unconditionally and without limits.

Those struggling with mental health issues need to know they are not alone not just through words but most especially through our actions. There is incredible power in knowing we are accepted and loved for who God created us to be.

I always get frustrated and angry when the media jumps to conclusions about the mentally ill especially in regards to school shootings. I think this often exacerbates the stigma. The facts actually show the mentally ill are more often the victims than the culprits.

Friends, know you are not alone! But most especially, know that I love you; love you so incredibly fiercely especially on days when it seems the demons have won with so many around us. And today, after the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, I’m loving you even more fiercely as beautiful beloved children of God, fearfully and wonderfully made. My prayer is that this fierce love is enough!

Summer Nights

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung over at our Five Minute Friday website. Today’s word prompt is “fly.” We would love to have you join us.

Summer sun shining brightly
Children gleefully playing
Water splashing
Children laughing

The glow of the campfire
As the sun begins to set
The light of the firefly
Shining as they fly around

Sticky S’more covered hands and faces
The smell of campfire lingering
On ones clothes.

The night sky darkens
The crescent moon rises
Stars twinkling

Sweet little ones
Rest their heads
And drift off to dreamland.

Mosquitoes and other bugs fly around
A reminder once again
Of the beauty of God’s creation.

Around the fire
A deep sigh is released
A peaceful holy night

Silence

And of course, I had to share my fave group singing one of my all time fave songs.

Sunday Blessings 217

(1) B90 Group and an awesome Zoom conversation.

(2) A great meeting!

(3) Baking frenzy!! I forgot how much I love to bake.

(4) Shutterfly photo books

(5) An unexpected check in the mail.

(6) A great last youth gathering meeting before we head to Houston!

(7) Water

(8) Voxing with KA

(9) The return of Nashville!!

(10) Ice on a hot day

(11) Texting with my sissy

(12) A fun rental car

(13) RG giving me a ride to the airport so I could pick up my rental car.

(14) A clean house

(15) The Tony Awards

(16) A grad announcement from one of my seminary friend’s daughter.

(17) Texting with Aunt N

(18) Return of Food Network Star

(19) A cool breeze

(20) All of you!!